About Me

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I love being a mom and a wife. I've married to a man I would do anything for, and we have three beautiful children. I see so much of myself in both of them that it sometimes brings me to tears (happy ones).

I also love writing. Romance to be specific. I love the happily ever after that I believe everyone deserves. My stories aren't 'stop and smell the roses' type romances. While I believe everyone deserves happiness and true love, I know that sometimes you have to walk a hard road to find it. Those are the types of stories I like to write. The happily ever after that wasn't found, but earned. I work to earn mine on a daily basis and so do my characters. 

I am also working on a children's picture book series. Inspired (of course) by my kiddos. :)

On the non-writing front, I play acoustic guitar, sing, read like I get paid for it, ride horses, hike, paint rocks, and support a rather obsessive addiction to Pinterest.

I love to cook, which combined with my pinning addiction, leads to many experiments foisted on my unsuspecting husband and kids, mostly with good results. But sometimes, the dogs gets what the family refuses to eat. And they never complain. 

Saturday, January 4, 2014

The Publishing Process - Part 2 - Self-Publishing and My Choices - Thursdays with the Author

I was planning on publishing the second part to my Publishing Process post Thursday, but since a majority of the US will be stuck indoors due to heavy snow or severely cold temperatures for the next 5 days, I decided to post early so everyone would have something to help alleviate their 'cabin fever'. So here is Part 2.

The Publishing Process - Part 2 - Self-Publishing and My Choices

My last blog post The Publishing Process - Part 1 focused on the Traditional Route when publishing. I went over all the tips to helping you get your novel picked up by a literary agent and/or publisher. 

But even with those tips, there's no guarantee you will get a YES from anyone. You might not even want to try. And that is perfectly fine. In today's age, self-publishing is exploding onto the scene. Publishing on your own is easier than ever and anyone can do it. 

That is true. But it's also sort of a lie. Yes: anyone can self publish. Should they? Well that's where the lie starts. 

Is self-publishing easy? Sure. But self-publishing and doing a good job of it is not.

Let's start with the first question: Should everyone self-publish? Well they certainly can. But it doesn't mean they should. If you can go the traditional route, if you can get that hard-to-achieve YES from an agent then do it. The marketing, the resources, the money...it's all bigger and probably much better with a traditional publisher. As I stated in Part 1, your book has to be near perfection to even be considered by an agent or publisher and they will STILL change things in it

Some authors buck the traditional route because they don't want their hard work being dissected and changed by their publisher. I can understand that. It took me over eight years to write and publish Dark Mountains on my own. It was so wrapped up in my life it would've been like cutting off a limb if they had asked me to change something. 

But another side of that coin is that some authors need their work to be changed. I hope that doesn't sound like I had a perfect work of art and others not so much. Quite the opposite actually. I found quite a few mistakes after I published that I hadn't noticed before. That's another beautiful aspect of self-publishing: you can fix your mistakes and have them updated and live in 24 hours or less. But some self published books that I see available are riddled with mistakes and bad writing. They would've done well to have a publisher edit the life out of it and turn it into a great read.

Some authors buck the traditional route because they get too many NO's. It happens. Even well established, famous authors had rejection after rejection before someone said YES to their work. Instead of trying again and again and hoping the next letter is acceptance instead of rejection, they decided to go their own route and self-publish on their own. 

This was another reason why I chose the self--publishing route with Dark Mountains. I have more rejection letters than I care to count. Some of them were actually personal, with specific reasons why a particular agent said NO, or with advice on how to get a YES out of someone else. But the majority were cookie cutter letters with a polite NO. It could have been my book. It could have been my synopsis (as you read in Part 1, I'm horrible at those). My query letter could have sucked. Maybe I caught all those agents on their bad days. 

So before I completely gave up on the traditional route, I read the letters, took the advice into consideration, worked on my approach, my pitch, my synopsis and resubmitted. Still NO. So I chose to self-publish.

Now I will go into the second question: Is self-publishing easy?
Sure it is. Most self-publishing sites have a meat-grinder submission engine that turns your Word document into an eReading work of art. At least that what they advertise. The reality is, editing, formatting, publishing and marketing your novel isn't as easy as they'd like you to think.

The first problem you'll run into is your novel

Your novel? Wait, you mean the masterpiece I have spent months and months perfecting? The manuscript I have poured my entire soul into? 

Yes. Your novel. It's not perfect. If it was perfect, editors wouldn't be needed in publishing houses. Even major-name authors have their work edited and rewritten after submitting it to a publisher. You need to have your manuscript edited... professionally. More than once, preferably. You'll hate seeing all that red ink but trust me, it must be done. You need to have it Beta-read. In case you aren't sure what that means: You need to give your book (for free) to a bunch of people to read and critique/review. Preferably people that know what they're doing. Avid readers, book reviewers, English teachers, etc. Not your mom. Even though your mom is probably a good option as a starting point but face it, she's your mom and she WILL lie to you. If you really want your novel to be great you need to have people read it that will be completely honest with you. Which usually means that family and friends, especially moms, don't count. Even if they're honest, they'll try to sugar-coat it so they don't hurt your feelings. And don't try to tell me they won't hurt your feelings if they are honest with you. You know that's a lie and so do they. This is you BABY we're talking about here. You don't want anyone telling you it isn't good enough. But it's something you need to hear so you can fix what's actually wrong with it. Try your hardest (and I KNOW it's damn near impossible) to look at their critiques objectively. Change what needs to be changed. You don't follow through with every single opinion... (Remember back in my post on November 8 - Handling Negative Feedback?). You can't please everyone. Every person has a different personality and will read your book differently. 

My general rule: if 2 or more people say the same thing, they're probably right.

You don't want to be one of those authors who's reviews and comments are littered with reports of typos, bad grammar, unresolved story-lines, etc. Trust me, if you write a bad book, the readers will let you know about it. Especially if they spent their hard-earned money on your book only to come away disappointed. You want to do EVERYTHING you can to make sure your book is free of the things that readers hate: mistakes.

The second problem you'll run into is choosing which Self-Publishing company to use.

As I mentioned earlier in this post and in Part 1, self-publishing is EXPLODING onto the scene now-a-days. There are hundreds of sites to self-publish with and more pop up every day. Top companies are CreateSpace (print only), Kindle Direct Publishing (eBook), Smashwords, Kobo, iBooks, Lulu, NOOK Press

Keep in mind that some companies are easier to use than others. I've had a pretty great experience with Amazon and CreateSpace and have also heard great things about Smashwords. Some companies require exclusive contracts so be sure you read the fine print before you publish with multiple companies. For example: Kindle Direct has a clause when you sign up for Kindle Select (where Select members can borrow your book and you can run free promotions) stating you can't publish an eBook edition with any other company while enrolled in Kindle Select or 90 days after opting out. You can still publish a print version with another company though. 

All companies have different royalty options as well. Some companies have to pay more of the 'middle-man' so you'll get less out of your royalty payments. Some companies charge extra for expanded distribution (having your book available in bookstores, libraries, etc) and some offer it free. 

Just remember, with self-publishing you should NEVER HAVE to pay for ANYTHING. The products that cost should be OPTIONAL (like formatting assistance, editing, cover design, marketing, etc.) If a company is trying to get you to pay hundreds or thousands of dollars to get your book published, you are being scammed. Whatever the cost is for production (mostly applies to print editions), it should come out of your chunk of royalty AFTER the sale, not before. For example: With CreateSpace: the CreateSpace store gives you more of a profit because there is one less 'middle-man' but if someone orders your book through Amazon, Amazon will get a chunk out of your money as well. 

So if your 266 page print book will be on sale for US $6.99 and you chose the worldwide 70% royalty option and expanded distribution (which raises the production cost a bit). It would cost aprox. US $6.74 to produce your book so your royalty would be 15 cents through Amazon or US $1.55 through the CreateSpace store. Prices and royalties are also different depending on what country you live in and what country your book is bought from. (And on a side note: PLEASE don't forget that whatever profit you make off your book you HAVE to pay taxes on.) See how confusing that all is? That's why self-publishing is NOT easy.

The third problem you'll run into is formatting

Especially if you are publishing an eReader version and print version. The formatting process is COMPLETELY different. For eBooks you need hyperlinks for chapter headings, internet links that actually work, page breaks, etc. For print you need specific gutters and margins, headers and footers (that don't show up on chapter and blank pages), readable fonts, chapter starts on certain pages, page breaks AND section breaks, etc. The meat-grinders on self-publishing sites will format your book for you but 9 times out of 10, something you did in your manuscript will cause an error on the eBook. Most meat-grinders can sort through these mistakes and fix them automatically but I always say: "If you want something done right, do it yourself.". Well I don't ALWAYS say that but I say it sometimes. ;) 

Most self-publishing sites have community forums where you can find out tons of information and ask questions from other users. Doing some research before hitting the publish button will do you a world of good. The companies I chose were Kindle Direct Publishing for my eBook edition and CreateSpace for my print edition. Both have their own formatting guidelines and community forums to help you navigate. CreateSpace has some great community boards that have general help and Q&A areas. I've used these boards plenty of times. Other users are quick to answer and always very helpful. Kindle also has the same type of community board. I recommend reading through both before you try publishing. Smashwords is also another good option for self-publishing. Mark Coker, the founder of Smashwords, provides a great and free guide to formatting both versions. You can find it here: Smashwords Formatting

The fourth problem you'll run into is cover design. 

This can be one of the most difficult parts of self-publishing, especially if you aren't artistically inclined or if you lean more towards computer illiterate. I wrote a blog post a few weeks ago on cover design that has some great advice on what NOT to do on a cover. You can find it here: Creating Your Cover - What Not To Do

This is one of those circumstances where spending a little extra money to have someone design a cover for you, might not be such a bad idea. I recommend reading through the above-mentioned blog post, browsing the Coverscroll site I mention there, and seeing for yourself what can happen when you design your own cover. Not saying your cover will turn out like some of the ridiculous ones shown there but you really need to do your research and practice. As you will see browsing that site, some of the covers are really well done. It IS possible to make a beautiful, eye-catching cover on your own, but don't expect to do it without any hard work!

Another good tip with cover design is to go to your local store, find the books and the section with your genre in it. Take a picture of the book selection to take home and compare to your cover. Or if you think that will get you arrested  for that ;) then imagine your book sitting there on the shelves among all the others. Does your cover stand out? Does it look amateurish? Most books in stores are traditionally published and have had professional covers done. If your cover can stand out among them, you're a step ahead of the game! :)

The fifth problem you'll run into is marketing. 

This is one of those must-do's whether you choose traditional publishing or self-publishing. You still have to work on your marketing if you choose the traditional route but with you have a huge, well-established company with the money, time and contacts to get your book on everyone's radar. When you self-publish, you only have you

In Part 1, I went into detail about how to create an internet presence and trust me, you need to have a good internet presence. Before you publish. That is the key to marketing your book. Social Media, blogging, review sites, author pages, websites. Use all of those resources to promote your book. Just remember: Don't Spam. No one wants to see every post as 'buy my book'. Be productive, be helpful and only plug your book every so often. You'll have a more faithful following if you actually give them something (like advice, or humor, etc) rather then shoving your book down their throats every day. (with exception to websites dedicated to your book - users know it's specifically FOR your book and won't think they're being spammed) 

Contact your local libraries and book clubs, join local writing groups and organizations. Write your local papers. Hold book signings, release parties, have prize giveaways. Hang posters in your local communities and libraries, make bookmarks for libraries to give out, etc. Make your presence known and don't be afraid to talk to people. With self-publishing, you'll start more local and work your way to regional, national and then world wide. With traditional, you tend to start all of them at once. :)

The sixth problem you'll run into is trying to keep writing. 

With all the things you have to do to self-publish your novel, finding time to keep writing is a difficult task. You really have to try hard to find the balance between marketing your newly published masterpiece and writing the next one. The best way to become a successful author is to keep writing and keep publishing. The more books you have available to readers the better. You should be writing every day. That doesn't necessarily mean you have to be working on a project to write. You could be typing up your newsletter, writing a review for another author's book, writing a blog post, etc. Any writing you do is great practice for writing your novel. 

So there's my tips for choosing self publishing. Whatever choice you make, it won't be an easy one and it will be full of hard work. Do your research, double-check all your options and don't be afraid to take a leap of faith

Happy writing and happy publishing!